Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Four daddies

Before breakfast, I was in the barn having a talk with Coco about the importance of her giving birth to her kids, rather than keeping them inside forever, and Mike walked in to inform me that we had goslings! Our year-old goose hatched her first gaggle of geese, and they have four daddies.

When I walked out of the barn, I saw the four ganders standing next to the door of the coop where the goose has been setting. The first gosling was standing in the doorway, and a couple more were standing behind it. About half an hour later, seven of the goslings had made their way outside the coop, and the mama goose was standing with them. A eighth gosling was being left behind. When the goose family had traveled about 10 feet away from the coop, Katherine picked up the one left inside and set it down near the others. It flopped on its belly. It's legs stuck out to the side, and it tried again to move forward, but it sort of hopped and flopped. As slowly as the other geese were moving, it wasn't slow enough for Number Eight. Regular blog readers have probably already guessed that #8 is now living in Katherine's bedroom. At two-hours old, he still wasn't standing, so it will be interesting to see how he develops.
I ate my bowl of cereal this morning sitting on the deck, watching the mama goose, the four daddies, and the seven goslings slowly make their way around the yard near the pond. The mama was easy to recognize -- she was the one gobbling grass. Sitting on eggs for four weeks has to be as exhausting as giving birth, perhaps more exhausting, since she hardly eats for all that time. Yes, of course, she does eat, but she only leaves the nest once a day to grab a quick bite and then get back to her eggs before they cool off. The most beautiful part of the whole picture was watching the four daddies, standing as sentinels around the goslings as they explored their new world.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Waiting for Coco

When I was in college, I read "Waiting for Godot." I was an English major, and I don't remember who Godot was or why anyone was waiting for him (or her). But now I'm waiting for Coco, the goat whose due date for kidding was Tuesday. I do think she's going to kid soon. Of course, she has to kid soon. She can't be pregnant forever. Maybe I could write a story called, "Waiting for Kids."

Today's picture is one of the babies that was born five weeks ago. Her name is Maly's Streetcar Named Desire. We're calling her Desire. Today she had the honor of being fed her bottle by visitors from Denmark! I can say without a doubt that visiting our farm was the highlight of the trip for the 10-year-old daughter who wanted to take a goat home with her. When someone said that she couldn't take it on the plane, I did not mention that goats can be shipped via plane just like dogs. I imagine her mom appreciated my silence on the subject.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Turkeys and goats and gardening

The babies just keep coming -- 29 so far! We now have two babies in the house: the one surviving kid from Beauty and a kid from Anne that didn't want to do anything other than sleep when she was born a week ago. Katherine tried to get her to nurse for two hours, and she would have nothing to do with it. It was as if she was saying, "Just let me sleep." So Katherine finally gave up, brought her in the house, and gave her some of her mommy's colostrum in a bottle. A couple hours after getting the colostrum -- liquid gold -- in her tummy, she woke up and was ready to party.

Now we're waiting for Coco to freshen, and she'll be the last one until the end of May or first of June when we have five more due! But don't think that we're getting a break. With the warm weather, it means that it's time to work in the garden. And Thursday, we're expecting turkey poults!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More kids

We've had three does kid in the last 24 hours -- triplets, twins, and a single. Some are boring, like solid black or white, but here's my favorite, at least in the color department. It's out of my master champion Carmen, whose babies are always wonderful in every way. Two of her daughters already earned the junior leg of their permanent championship. I hope this little girl follows in her big sisters' hoof prints! They don't give any points for color, but it's a nice bonus. She's not even a day old in this photo -- and, oh, she has blue eyes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

You save some

And you lose some. We were quite hopeful about the little bucks that we brought into the house yesterday. They were eating well, and the little white one had even started walking. But sometime between the 3 a.m. feeding and sunrise, he died. The buckskin is still alive, but he is not very strong. None of these kids weighed even two pounds, and just like human babies, low birth weight is a tough handicap to overcome. But at least we know we've tried. I'm glad we brought them into the house. When milking their mother, we get very little milk, so even if she had been willing to let the boys nurse, they wouldn't have been getting enough. The tiny udder, low production, and lack of mothering instincts makes me think something is wrong with mom hormonally, but what?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cheating death

Life is such an amazing mystery. After writing about Carmen's birth yesterday, I come home last night to learn that another doe gave birth unexpectedly, and the little girl died. She was small and soaking wet when Katherine found her. Only the mouth and nose had been cleaned off by the mother. No doubt she died from hypothermia. The mom had triplets. When people ask me why we have to be at the births, I tell them that 99% of the time we just need to make sure the kids are dried off. It is amazing that something as simple as a towel can be a lifesaver, but it is.

This morning I went out to check on the two boys. The white one was laying alone, and the buckskin was under the heat lamp. I felt their tummies, and they were not full, I gave the mom some alfalfa and stood the kids up under her to nurse. The mom started doing a tap dance moving from side to side as she munched the hay. The white buckling could hardly stand and gave up quickly. The buckskin followed his mom from side to side, but then laid down under the heat lamp to rest. After about 15 minutes, she finally let him have a few sucks. I am not in the mood to have any more goats die, so I decide to take the boys inside and bottle feed them.

That last comment sounds like Twilight Zone fodder, but as I was walking into the house with the kids under my coat, I remembered my experience with Carmen. I had never had a kid so near death, so I called people with more experience. Some had the attitude that if the kid couldn't make it on her own, it wasn't worth saving her. I couldn't just let her die, and this morning, I couldn't let these boys die.

The white kid was already suffering from hypothermia. When I opened his mouth to put the bottle nipple in, I realized his mouth was ice cold. No wonder he had no energy. He was almost dead. I was ecstatic that he could still suck. (Carmen couldn't when I found her, so I had to tube feed her.) Not only could this little guy suck, but he made it quite clear that he was starving! I had warmed up four ounces for the boys, which should have been more than enough for two 12-hour-old kids. The little white one sucked down most of it without stopping. I offered the rest to the buckskin, deciding to give him more after I'd tried to warm up the white one.

As I had done with Carmen and other kids suffering from hypothermia, I put him in warm water -- and I got a surprise. When his lips touched the water, he started drinking it! Although he has no energy for anything else, he knows he needs nourishment and fluids. That's a great sign. I rubbed him in the warm water, and he moved his legs. After about five minutes, his mouth felt a bit warmer, so I lifted him out of the water and wrapped him in a towel with only his nose sticking out. I got the heating pad and plugged it in. I placed him on it and covered him with the towel. I was constantly checking his temperature, because I don't want him to get overheated. When his mouth was only cool, I uncovered him. I'm hoping that between feeding and laying on the heating pad, he will warm up and totally come back to life.

I hate to ever say anything about whether or not I think a kid will make it. I've lost some, and I've saved some that were in worse shape than this little boy. I am guardedly optimistic, hoping that when I get home tonight, I'll be met by a pair of bouncing baby goats in my living room.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Death and life

We decided to have the vet put Addy down on Saturday, March 29. It was a hard decision to make, but I appreciate everyone's comments. It made it a little easier. One side of me felt that I had to do everything to save her, but the other side of me felt that it would be wrong to put her through all sorts of medical procedures to extend her life a few months. We buried her in the front yard, and I'm going to buy an evergreen to plant above her grave. I was terribly distracted for several days and kept thinking about doing things for her -- feed her, let her outside to potty -- before remembering that she was gone.

Of course, life on the farm slows down for no one. In the midst of all this, we found a dead lamb in the pasture. It looked like a perfectly beautiful, fluffy white ram, so we have no idea why it died. It was probably only a few hours old. I wasn't particularly sad when my husband told me he'd found the ram. Obviously it was sad to learn that the little guy had died before he even had much of a chance at life, and I wondered if we would have been able to help him if we'd found him sooner. But since I didn't know him personally yet, I didn't have the profound sense of loss that I had with Addy.

Then I realized that our relationships with people and animals have a lot in common. Sometimes, friends ask how I can handle it when animals die, since we face it so much more often than people who don't live on a farm. I always felt kind of weird telling them that you don't get too sad most of the time. Why don't we usually get sad? I should have realized that -- just like when people die -- how you respond to an animal's death is totally dependent upon the relationship you had with them. Many year ago when we lived in Florida, a neighbor died. I wasn't particularly sad because I hardly knew her. I think a lot of our animals are kind of like that neighbor. I see them almost daily, but we don't have much of a relationship.

There are other animals, however, that are like Addy. You have a relationship with them. You have shared special times, and you are close to them. When my goat Dancy died, I was devastated. I cried for days whenever I thought of her. I fell in love with her from the moment I brought her home and was convinced there was something terribly wrong with her -- why would anyone sell such a wonderful goat? I had her tested for every goat disease imaginable, and it all came back negative. Why didn't her three previous owners realize what a gem they had? I'll never forget the day that I was a little late milking, and Dancy somehow got out of the pasture, walked up to the kitchen door and called me! I got the milk bucket, and when I walked outside she followed me back to the barn and jumped up on the milkstand! For that reason (and many others), I called her Dancy Darlin, and I still cry when I think about her -- like right now!

When her daughter Carmen dies, I'm sure I'll be equally devastated. Although Dancy gave birth to Carmen, the little gold and white doeling became my baby immediately. I found her soaking wet, ice cold, almost dead in the straw only minutes after she was born. Her brothers, who were twice her size, were already nursing when I walked into the stall and almost stepped on the tiny little doeling. Dancy probably thought she was dead. Carmen became my first house goat, and I knew I'd never be able to let her go, even accepting the fact that she'd probably be a tiny little runt forever. She fooled all of us, however, when she grew up to be a beautiful girl. She's my first home-grown master champion, and she has even earned her advanced registry milk star -- again our first goat to accomplish that goal. She and I have shared so much together, both good and bad. I hope she is with me for many, many more years.


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